Once Upon A Time In Colima

Listen to the jungle.

This morning, like many other mornings, I packed up my work bag and left home for my go-to coffee spot. It’s a quaint organic cafe and deli, who’s motto is “every ingredient counts”, and I enjoy the food and find the ambiance conducive to my work. But on this morning I was treated to more than just delicious coffee and avocado toast.

Upon walking in, I filled my water bottle and made my way to the register to place my order. The guy in front of me was in the middle of a very animated story, and instead of insisting on ordering I stepped to his side and quietly joined in by making eye-contact and nodding along. He was a very handsome older gentlemen, with piercing blue eyes, a lean physique, tanned skin and wrinkles on his forehead that told of a life well lived. If I had to guess I would put him at around 60 cycles of the sun, but age is simply a number, and what really matters is spirit, and this fellow, let’s call him Robbie, was full of it.

When I first started listening Robbie was saying how had lived in the area since 1974; and how back then none of the shitty apartment complexes were on the cliffs overlooking the ocean and he could drive up to the edge, park his truck and sleep under the stars with the sound of the waves crashing below. The area is still very beautiful today, but very developed, and I oft find myself wondering what it would’ve been like to be here in the 60’s and 70’s.

Robbie went on to describing his multiple road trips to southern Mexico, to his mother’s property, some 2,500 miles away. He said he must’ve done that trip at least 10 times, which, at a round trip distance of 5,000 miles, is no small feat. I myself am a man of the road and have a great affinity for stories of adventure behind the wheel. Today things are a bit different, and while a gringo can most definitely drive from California to the furthest reaches of Central America, it is a perilous journey that may leave even the most cautious travelers dead in a ditch.

On the road.

He told of how he kitted out his truck to accommodate surfboards, bamboo fishing poles, other essential tools and a sleeping platform. The truck was a 1954 Chevrolet, with a straight-six cylinder engine and a “three on the tree” manual transmission, one of the more reliable vehicles to come out of Detroit’s golden age. For all the journeys to exotic and wild places it took him, it may as well have been a spaceship capable of transporting him to far off galaxies.

Robbie demonstrated to me and the cashier the tricks to fishing with a 20 foot bamboo pole, with a 20 foot line, and no reel — using his arms to mimic the motion of setting the hook in clever fish that hide within submersed coastal caverns. “You ever see those people fishing off the pier, with their tiny fishing poles? You’re not going to catch shit in Baja with one of those things!”

My favorite part of his enchanting story, was when he spoke of his escapades in the tropical Central American rainforest. He told of one place, in the Mexican state of Colima, where there was a 60 mile trail from the volcanic mountains to the coast. It wasn’t exactly a safe trail, say one you would find in our national park system, but a sketchy one filled with narrow cliff-lined passes and slippery log bridges.

Along that trail, as is common in that part of the world, there was a particularly potent species of psychedelic mushrooms growing wild. Being the intrepid traveler that he was (and likely still is) of course he took some. These mushrooms were so potent that they almost visibly radiated with energy, and the trip began before he could even finish swallowing the rubber-like cap. He instantly became one with the jungle, and there was no longer any separation of self and setting. The wildlife he said, and I can personally attest to this, knew he was on a different wave length, and the animals no longer bothered to hide themselves.

“The animals know man, they know you’re totally ripped! You’re walking around as if you’re on a cloud and your head is just like booiiiinngggg-booiiiinngggg-booiiiinngggg and you’ve got a huge smile on your face. They know you’re not a threat — to them you’re just another part of the forest. At one point a fucking jaguar crossed the trail — right in front of us! I’m talking a 200 pound jungle cat casually walking 10 feet in front of you as if it’s your mom’s fucking house cat. It wasn’t an accident, we didn’t just stumble upon it — it totally knew we were there, they can hear you coming from miles away. It came to check us out, and once it had a nice long look, as it was paused smack dab in the middle of the tiny trail, it continued on it’s way.”

While that may sound fictitious to the modern humanoid, you must remember this was in the 1970’s when the jaguar wasn’t lingering on the edge of extinction due to habitat loss — and before the 1960’s they even used to freely roam in the Southwestern U.S. And you must also remember that strange, strange things can happen when you are above the influence of our narrow consciousness and deviate into the higher realms of the natural world.

Later in Robbie’s travels, he was roaming the jungle with a native guide…once again on mushrooms. They were lounging near a river when, out of the blue, his guide tells him, “in a few minutes a very large snake will cross the river.”

He’s thinking to himself, “what the fuck, how the hell does this guy supposedly know a snake is about to swim across? We didn’t have anywhere we needed to be so I sit there and wait and watch. I’m tripping balls trying to figure out whether he’s fucking with me, or whether there’s someway he knows the snake is coming.”

Sure enough, moments later, a 12 foot snake descends the opposite river bank and crosses the river. His mind is now totally blown. As much as Robbie pleaded with his guide how he knew such a thing, he would not say.

Being an intelligent and curious being, Robbie dedicated some thought to how the native could know such a thing. It wasn’t until weeks later, long gone from that river bank, he discovered that it was a change in biophony. “Biophony specifically refers to the collective sound that vocalizing non-human animals create in a given environment.” Meaning that when a large animal, such as said snake, slithers or moves through the forest, there is a change in the natural sound of the forest. Say when a frog senses the approaching snake, it silences itself, and once the frog is silenced so is another creature, that in turn causes a systemic change in the biophony, with some animals making no noise, some make warning sounds, and others take flight or flee, adding to the disruption of the natural state.

To city dwellers, such subtle distinction is impossible to detect. We, for instance, can only predict imminent future events if we hear something as flagrant as the rumbling of the subway, or the screeching of car tires.

Modern folks may be very skeptical of Sir Robbie’s story, but I have also spent time in the rain forest and can give credence to his claims. But now is not the time for my own story, that is yet to come…maybe in a few days, here on this very site, or maybe not for another 30 years when I’m standing in line ordering a coffee and feel the urge to blow some young minds.